MANA GEMENT PLAN
BLA CK BEAR IN MIS SO URI
Missouri Department of Conservation October 2008
Outreach & Education
Private Land Services
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This black bear management plan provides the guidance and continuity for their conservation and
management in Missouri. It was organized and prepared by a team of inter-agency resource professionals. The
team was composed of:
Jeff Beringer, Resource Science Division, Missouri Department of Conservation
Aaron Pondrom, Protection Division, Missouri Department of Conservation
Arleasha Mays, Outreach and Education, Missouri Department of Conservation
Chuelo Arias, Resource Science Division, Missouri Department of Conservation
Harriet Weger, Wildlife Division, Missouri Department of Conservation
James Braithwait, Private Lands Division, Missouri Department of Conservation
James Dixon, Private Lands Division, Missouri Department of Conservation
Joan McKee, Outreach and Education, Missouri Department of Conservation
Jody Eberly, United States Forest Service
Ken McCarty, Missouri Department of Natural Resources
Kevin Hedgpeth, Wildlife Division, Missouri Department of Conservation
Kimberly Houf, National Park Service
Larry Rieken, Wildlife Division, Missouri Department of Conservation
Lee Hughes, Wildlife Division, Missouri Department of Conservation
Rex Martensen, Private Lands Division, Missouri Department of Conservation
Scott Mc Williams, Private Lands Division, Missouri Department of Conservation
Terry Jones, Forestry Division, Missouri Department of Conservation
Tim Russell, Wildlife Division, Missouri Department of Conservation
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Goal Statement 6
Current Status 8
Management Objectives 11
Literature Cited 22
Appendix I: General information about black bears and habitat
Appendix II: Contents of 59 black bear stomachs collected in Arkansas,
fall 1981-1986 32
A MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR
THE BLACK BEAR IN MISSOURI
The Missouri Department of Conservation is charged with the "control, management, restoration, conservation
and regulation" of the state's wildlife and this includes the black bear (Ursus americanus). Sightings of sows
with cubs, nuisance complaints, and other incidents involving black bears in Missouri have increased
significantly over the past 10-15 years suggesting that bear populations are increasing in the state. In an effort
to proactively address bear issues, resource personnel from the Missouri Department of Conservation, United
States Forest Service, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and the National Park Service outlined goals
and strategies to ensure that bears are managed in ways that minimize conflicts with humans while encouraging
population expansion into compatible habitats. The group identified key information needs for black bear
management in Missouri as population and habitat assessment, increased understanding of movement patterns,
dissemination of information about bear biology and nuisance problems, control of unacceptable mortality, and
continual review and update of management needs. The group recognized that management of bears should
include hunting, when biologically feasible, to reduce nuisance conflicts and to maintain bear populations that
are compatible with social tolerance.
This document describes the historical and current status of the black bear (Ursus americanus) in
Missouri, identifies the goals and objectives of management programs for black bears, and provides a brief
description of basic biology and habitat needs. The Missouri Department of Conservation has authority and
responsibility to cultivate and maintain a viable black bear population. The Black bear is an increasingly
significant wildlife resource in Missouri, and represents an integral part of our native ecosystems.
Black bears are generalists adapted to a forested environment, and are likely to do well in Missouri's
southern rural regions. They are valued as a game species and for their ecological role and aesthetic value as a
recovering species of Missouri's native biota. Managing the black bear as a game species requires reasonable
population and sex ratio estimates; data requirements which are addressed in this plan. Li addition, some bears
can become a nuisance or hazard, requiring various types of corrective measures to be taken by landowners
assisted by Department personnel. Accordingly, this plan provides guidelines for black bear management in
Missouri. Bear management issues were identified and recommendations developed within the plan. Plan
implementation will be reviewed annually by the inter-agency committee that drafted it, and revised as
Goal statement; To encourage black bear population expansion within their natural
range in Missouri, and to manage black bears consistent with the available habitat and
within the limits of human tolerance.
Black bear program goals
1. Increase knowledge needed to manage and conserve black bear populations.
2. Increase knowledge of black bear ecology in Missouri, identify populations, how they move, disperse
and travel on a landscape level.
3. Develop black bear conservation and management strategies based on information gathered through
research, monitoring, and surveys.
4. Educate the public, media, and other resource professionals in Missouri and the Midwest about black
bears and their management.
The Black bear is the most common and widely distributed of the three ursids in North America. Their
historic range included the forested areas of North America, including Mexico. Black bears are now found
primarily in sparsely populated, forested regions in the U.S. and most of Canada. Their status, density, and
ecology vary considerably within existing ranges. In the eastern United States, they now exist primarily on
public lands (Pelton 1982).
Black bears were "found in abundance" according to many early pioneers and settlers in Missouri during
the 18' and 19' centuries (McKinley 1962). Many early county histories contain notes and reports of the
remarkable number of bears in all areas of the state. Bears were a staple item for early settlers and were widely
used for food as well as for their fat and skins. In fact, bears were more commonly killed by pioneers and early
travelers than any large mammal, other than deer (McKinley 1962).
Henry Rowe Schoolcraft's (1821) notes of travel in the Ozarks during 1818-1819 contain interesting
accounts of settlers' dependence on bear meat and fat, and income from the hides, illustrating the abundance of
bears in Missouri. However, by the 1830s and 1840s, bears were rare in north Missouri, and by 1894, bears
were reported to be almost extinct in the Ozarks. Schwarz (1920) reported the bear was still present in
southeastern Missouri in 1920, and they were "occasionally seen in the Bootheel" until the flood of 1927
(Godsey 1933). One of the last records of a verified wild bear in Missouri (during the early 1900s) came from
this area, one killed in 1931 (Bennitt and Nagel 1937).
McKinley (1962) reports no claims of bears being present in the Ozarks during the 1890s-1950s, other
than rumors during the 1940s and 1950s. He acknowledged, however, that some rumors may have been
reliable, and cites two incidents of bears killed in the Ozarks during the 1950s. A 35-pound bear cub was shot
in southwest Dent County in 1950, in a barn lot near the community of Darien. Reports in the July 1950
Missouri Conservationist claims it had no markings or condition which indicated it had been confined. The
Conservationist also cited other reports of bears sighted near Willow Springs and near Norfork Lake, one
supposedly to have weighed about 200 pounds. There were a few other reports of black bears in portions of the
Ozarks in the 1950s (K. Sadler, pers. comm.).
G. E. Moore, writing in the July 1954 Audubon Society of Missouri's The Bluebird, a quarterly
newsletter/journal, states that although it was formerly widely-believed that there were no bears left in Missouri,
his views had changed. He stated it was well-established that there were black bears in some parts of the Ozark
region and that they were increasing. However, he didn't cite any evidence to support this belief. A 250-pound
adult of unknown sex was later shot in Iron County in 1958 (Schwartz and Schwartz 1959). It is not known
whether these were released. Department personnel were aware of instances of bears being released during this
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission quietly initiated a black bear restoration program in 1959.
During 1959-1967, 254 black bears were captured in Minnesota and Manitoba, Canada and released in the
Ozark and Ouachita Mountains of western Arkansas. Since that time the Arkansas population has expanded in
both size and distribution. Estimates increased from 600-700 bears (Conley 1978) to 1,200-1,500 (Pharris
1984) in just six years. Present populations are estimated at 3,500 (Eastridge 2007). Black bears have been a
legal game animal in Arkansas during a conservative fall season annually since 1980.
Since 1959, black bear sightings have become more numerous in Missouri, as have nuisance complaints
and illicit shootings. Frank Sampson, former Department Wildlife Research Biologist, described the
circumstances and occurrences of black bears in Missouri in 1972 (Dept. memo), noting 54 occurrences in 27
counties during 1950-1972. Some records of sightings of black bears were maintained during the 1970's and
1980's. In 1988, personnel on the Doniphan District of the Mark Twain National Forest recorded 15 sightings
of bears in Ripley County alone.
In 1990, a request for sighting information published in the June Conservationist magazine resulted in
55 reports of sighting in 26 counties.
Additionally, 31 bears are known to have been killed in Missouri from 1959-1992. All but two were
males; one female was tagged as one of the original bears released in Arkansas. She had been captured as a
yearling and released near Mena, Arkansas on August 9, 1968 and killed 160 miles north near Branson,
Missouri on October 27, 1968 (Clark 1985). Arkansas Game and Fish personnel did not tag any of the bears
they released until the final year (1968). Twelve bears were killed in Missouri during 1959-1970 (25% of all
sightings), the period coinciding with the Arkansas restoration program.
The black bear is currently listed as "vulnerable" in Missouri. Our primary source of information is
from a public sightings, occasional road kills, or bear shootings. Otherwise, little is known about the
population's current status.
We have better information regarding the distribution of bears in Missouri. In 1991 we began a survey
to better determine the distribution of black bears in Missouri and the status of their habitat (Hamilton 1992).
As part of this effort we distributed report forms to Conservation Agents and other Department field personnel
to document sightings of bears and their sign. We recorded 95 sightings in 1991 and 152 sightings in 1992 in
34 counties. Since 1987, 829 sightings have been recorded in 91 counties (Figure 1). Of these counties, 27
reported between 1 and 4 sightings, with single-sighting reports in 13 counties. Fifteen counties had more than
20 sightings; Ozark (>100), Carter, and Taney counties had the most reported sightings. Few of these reports
indicated problem or nuisance bears. Recent bear sightings suggest bears are continuing to occupy more
forested range. From January through May 2008, 17 bear reports have been received, and three of the reports
included cub sightings. These reports include confirmed/probable bear sightings and confirmed sign such as
tracks and scat.
Bear Reports per County
1987 through May 2008
(sightings and sign)
Figure 1. Bear reports by county for Missouri from 1987 to 2008.
Sightings of sows with cubs or young have increased fairly dramatically. There were 8 sightings of cubs
during the 1960's, few records of reproduction during the 1970s and 1980s (3), and 16 reports during 1990-
1992. The total number of reported cub sightings since 1987 totals 107 (Fig 2).
Cub Sigtitings per County
1937 through May 2008
Figure 2. Reports of cub sightings by county for Missouri from 1987 to 2007.
Many resource professionals in the Ozark and Southwest regions believe that bear sightings have
become so common that the public and agency folks no longer report them. Black bear sightings tend to be
seasonal, with a distinct peak of activity occurring in May and June, during breeding and when natural foods are
scarce and bears forage in areas where they are likely to be seen. Sighting rates decline in mid-summer as
natural foods become widely available and pick up again in fall during the "fall shuffle" as bears move to new
From 1991 to 2003, bait-station surveys were sporadically conducted across a large portion of potential
bear habitat in an effort to identify occupied areas. Preliminary results suggest small populations in areas of
southwest Missouri and the Current River watershed (Fig. 3).
Bear Bait Station Hits
Figure 3. Bear visits to bait station surveys sporadically conducted from 1991 - 2003.
Bait-station surveys have been conducted in Arkansas since 1985 (Clark 1990) and in Oklahoma since 1989.
Rates of visitation have increased dramatically, especially in Oklahoma during 1991 and 1992 as the Ouachita
bear population expanded along east- west mountain ridges (J. Whitaker-Hoagland, pers. comm.). Generally,
bait station data are not well correlated with population densities and their most valuable attributes are in
defining bear presence (but not necessarily absence).
According to recent research in Arkansas, the black bear population in the central Ozark Mountains is
nearly stable, while the population in the Ouachita Mountains is growing at an incredible rate of 26% annually
(Clark 1991). Average litter sizes were higher in the Ouachitas (2.26 cubs) than in the Ozarks (1.41), and
survival of cubs much higher (90% vs. 31%), explaining the difference in growth rates of those two distinct bear
Although sightings of bears in Missouri have increased substantially during the past 10 years or so, the
origin of these bears is not clear. Some of these sightings may be dispersing sub-adult males traveling from
breeding populations in Arkansas. Sub-adult male bears disperse long distances and occasionally wander
through areas of marginal habitat, but females rarely disperse from natal home ranges, and usually establish
home ranges within or adjacent to their natal area (Pelton 1982, Elowe 1984). Geographic expansion of black
bear populations is relatively rare, especially across gaps in habitat.
A small scale pilot hair snare study conducted with the University of Missouri in 2006 identified 16
individual bears. Analysis of DNA suggests most bears were from the Ozarks of Arkansas but some were from
the Ouachitas, one bear was a "hybrid" offspring from animals linked to these 2 populations. Given these
findings it is likely that a portion of Missouri's bear population is the result of dispersals from the original
releases in Arkansas during 1959-1967; perhaps a few were females who survived in Missouri's Ozarks and
have persisted at low densities. Lastly, it could be that black bears were never completely eradicated from
Missouri, and it has simply taken 40 years for the descendants of the few survivors to begin a recovery. The
two bears killed in Missouri immediately prior to the Arkansas restoration effort are evidence in support of this
While we are still unsure of their origin, and more importantly, their viability, road-killed sows and
photos of sows with cubs provide evidence that female bears and their cubs reside in Missouri. Such incidences
have occurred in two areas: one in southwest Missouri and the other along the Current River watershed in the
eastern Ozarks. More intensive study is now needed to better define the status of black bears and their viability
MANAGEMENT GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
A number of objectives and programs have been identified to aid in the management of black bears in
Missouri, including population and habitat assessment, increased understanding of movement patterns,
dissemination of information about bear biology and nuisance problems, control of unacceptable mortality, and
continual review and update of management needs. Although presented here in priority order and as distinct
elements, these objectives are interrelated and will be integrated during implementation.
The black bear was a common resident throughout Missouri's woodlands during the early 1800s, but
was becoming rare by 1850 due to over harvest (McKinley 1962). A few survived in the Mississippi lowland
swamps until 1931 (Bennitt and Nagel 1937). During the period 1890-1920, much of the Ozark forestland was
systematically logged and was cleared for homesteading. The Mississippi lowland hardwood forest, originally
2.4 million acres, was also cleared and drained, and less than 2% remains (Korte and Fredrickson 1977).
Similar patterns of bear extermination and habitat loss occurred in adjacent areas of Arkansas and Oklahoma,
thus most likely eliminating the entire bear population from the Interior Highlands (Ozark and Ouachita
Mountains) (Clark 1988).
Many habitats capable of supporting bears have since recovered and human populations are much lower
in the Literior Highlands of Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Black bears were successfully re-established in
the Ouachita and Ozark Mountains of Arkansas between 1959 and 1967 by the Arkansas Game and Fish
Commission (Rogers 1973, Pharris 1981). Black bear populations have grown dramatically in Arkansas and in
adjacent areas of Oklahoma, and sightings of black bears have increased in Missouri as well.
Increased reports of black bears and cubs suggest we have a growing population of bears in Missouri.
Missouri citizens and Department personnel have expressed both interest and concern regarding this growing
population. The fate and perception of bears in Missouri will likely be influenced by the management actions
taken by MDC. Most state agencies suggest that raising bears and other large carnivores to a game species
actually elevates the animals' status in the publics' view. Clear and effective nuisance control actions are
important to minimize conflicts with humans and remove bears that may become a perennial nuisance. Also,
given the generalist nature of bears it seems likely that bear populations will continue to grow and colonize
suitable habitats. We consider the natural bear range in Missouri to include the 42 county area contained within
the Ozark Highlands section (Nigh and Schroeder 2002) and excluding metropolitan counties and those with
greater than 15% in row crop agriculture (Fig 4). As bear populations grow within this range it will be important
to implement management strategies that support a bear population. Many information needs exist and this plan
identifies both short-term and long-term program objectives.
Population by County
rn 1.216 -100.000
Ea 100,000 - 770,711
Cropland by County
ED - 15 Percent
dl 16 - 81 Percent
Figure 4. Counties in Missouri (white) with suitable bear habitat, low human populations, and <15% row crop
Bear management objectives:
Goal 1: Increase knowledge needed to manage and conserve black bear populations
• Objective 1.1: Provide a scientific estimate of bear densities, sex and age distribution and occupied range in
Missouri (Priority 1)
o Strategy 1.1 A: Implement systematic, quantitative population estimates using the best available
technology, including, but not limited to: hair snares, DNA analysis, and radio -telemetry combined
with a mark-recapture program to estimate the number of individual bears, sex, and possibly age
distribution. Assignment: Resource Science
o Strategy LIB: Continue to use public bear sightings, nuisance complaints, road killed bears, annual
hunter observations and surveys, and bait station surveys as a means to identify occupied bear range
on a statewide basis. Assignment: Resource Science
Strategy I.IC: Coordinate management efforts and population information with neighboring states.
Assignment: Kevin Hedgpeth, Wildlife
Missouri black bear populations are estimated to be around 300 (Dave Hamilton, pers. obs.), primarily
in the southern part of the state. Approximately 3,500 black bears are present in the Interior Highlands of
Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri, and are likely genetically inter-connected, although it is unknown to
what degree Missouri bears are linked to or dependent upon those to the south.
Understanding population structure provides important information for management strategies.
Missouri black bear population densities are relatively low, making trend estimates difficult and less
meaningful. Traditional mark-recapture methods such as trapping and tagging individuals are very labor
intensive and are problematic because of the impermanence of the tags on relatively long-lived animals (Woods
et al. 1999, Mills et al. 2000). Recently, non-invasive sampling of hair to obtain genetic tags has been utilized
as an alternate method to study bear populations in Canada, North Carolina, Michigan, Oklahoma, and
Wisconsin. Genetic tags obtained from remotely collected hair samples are unique to the individual throughout
its lifetime and can be used to reveal crucial characteristics about a population such as relative size, sex ratio,
genetic diversity, and even the age of individual animals (Taberlet et al. 1997, Woods et al. 1999, Mowat and
Strobeck 2000). Molecular markers can also determine migration patterns between populations, genetic
differentiation between populations, and relatedness between individuals. These new technologies will help to
define a starting point from which population growth can be modeled. This information will be crucial in
designing conservation strategies to manage black bears consistent with the available habitat and within the
limits of human tolerance. A population estimate and sex/age distribution will provide the foundation of
information for establishing a long-term black bear harvest management program. Results from this work may
reveal future research needs regarding population demographics and movement corridors.
We will continue our effort to collect bear sighting information from agency personnel and the public.
Periodic media campaigns will be used to remind field personnel of the need to report sightings. We
periodically distributed "wanted posters" and mail-in bear observation forms at various locations requesting the
aid of citizens in reporting sightings of bears and sign of bear activity. Bait-station surveys may be conducted
in the vicinity of repeated bear sightings if they are occurring in previously unoccupied regions.
Department field personnel are requested to report all black bear observations to Resource Science
personnel in Columbia. Reports should include name and address of observer, county, date, number and
description of animals or sign, and the specific location (township, range, section, road numbers, and distance to
identifiable landmarks, such as intersections or towns). These sightings are indicators of bear range in Missouri
and helpful indices of population trends. All sightings are recorded in a long term database. We recognize that
there is a tendency for reporting rates to drop over time and that this sighting report system has become less
effective. Sightings do, however continue to be useful in defining occupied and new bear range in the state.
Goal 2: Increase knowledge of black bear ecology in Missouri, identify populations, how they move,
disperse and travel on a landscape level
• Objective 2.1: Identify source and sink populations of black bears in the state and use this information to aid
in decision making regarding translocation of nuisance bears and integration into management strategies.
o Strategy 2.1 A: Use sex ratio and age distribution data collected under Strategy 1.1 A for the basis of
decisions regarding bear management. Assignment: Resource Science
o Strategy 2. IB: Use best available technology, including, but not limited to: GPS, radio-telemetry,
DNA analysis, remote sensing to identify resource selection and availability. Assignment: Resource
• Objective 2.2: Identify movement, dispersal and travel patterns in order to conserve corridors and limit
barriers caused by human development
o Strategy 2.2A: Use best available technology to monitor black bear movements and identify
significant travel corridors and habitats. Assignment: Resource Science
• Objective 2.3: Identify, delineate, and describe suitable black bear habitat types in the state
o Strategy 2.3A: Use spatial mapping and resource selection investigations in order to represent
important bear habitats. Assignment: Wildlife- Lee Hughes
o Strategy 2.3B: Update/verify existing black bear habitat use model. Assignment: Wildlife- Lee
Hughes and US Forest Service Research Section
The idea of managing bear populations relative to source-sink areas is compatible with established
nuisance guidelines and promotes expansion only in areas most suited for bears in Missouri. In many situations
it is likely that a source-sink dynamic is artificially created. Sinks are likely to result in areas where conflicts
with humans are common, habitat quality is poor, or mortality from illegal harvest is high. On the other hand,
source populations in Missouri are likely areas with established female populations, with low human densities
and good habitat. One such example in Missouri appears to be the areas around Roaring River State Park were
bear sightings have been common for 20 years and reproduction is increasing (based on sightings).
Identification of similar areas will be helpful when making bear management considerations.
The breeding range of bears in Arkansas is believed to extend north to the Missouri border (J. Clark
pers. comm.), and the breeding habitat in Arkansas is contiguous with that in Missouri (Figure 5).
ij^^ Sack Best Range
Figure 5. Current breeding bear range in Arkansas, 2008
In order to adequately address future black bear population challenges, we need to better define the
distribution and density of bears in Missouri and describe the nature of these occurrences. Identification of
source populations (areas with reproducing female bears) will allow the Missouri Department of Conservation
to better target education efforts and nuisance bear control programs in Missouri. By determining sex and age
distributions of the current breeding population in the Ozark Highlands and identifying the potential habitat
blocks available and corridors linking them, we will be better able to conserve corridors and limit barriers
caused by human development. In addition, identifying areas occupied by bears in Missouri will provide the
basis for studies to measure reproductive status, recruitment and population dynamics - essential parameters if
we wish to model or forecast population growth and harvest potential.
The question of population connectivity has many potential implications, including long-term viability,
genetic diversity, and population growth rates. Ultimately, answers to this question may also affect future land
management decisions and mitigation measures for future development projects.
Goal 3: Develop black bear conservation and management strategies based on information
gathered through research, monitoring, and surveys
Objective 3.1: Maintain a viable population of black bears in the state (Priority 1)
o Strategy 3.1 A: Evaluate and recommend regulation changes pertaining to the protection and
management of existing and future populations. Assignment: Protection and Resource Science
o Strategy 3. IB: Incorporate black bear habitat requirements in developing and implementing Missouri
Comprehensive Wildlife Strategy, Forestry Resource Assessment and Strategy (FRAS) and other
agency strategic land management plans. Assignment: Wildlife- Tim Russell and US Forest Service-
o Strategy 3. IC: Implement project-level management activities to the benefit of black bear
populations. Assignment: Wildlife- Larry Rieken and DNR- Ken McCarty
o Strategy 3. ID: Identify and link suitable blocks of black bear habitat within Missouri and adjacent
states. Assignment: Wildlife- Lee Hughes
• Objective 3.2: Manage black bear populations consistent with other big game animals in the state to meet
public desires and legal obligations
o Strategy 3.2A: Consider establishing a limited black bear hunting season when, based on data
collected under Goals 1 and 2, the population exceeds 500 animals.
o Strategy 3.2B: Educate hunters about bear hunting techniques and ethics and how season timing is
used to protect sows from harvest. Assignment: Resource Science, Outreach & Education
o Strategy 3.2C: Collect appropriate biological samples from road killed, hunter-harvested bears, and
other available carcasses including tooth and DNA samples in order to monitor sources of mortality
on the population, general health, and reproductive indices. Assignment: Private Lands- James
Dixon and Scott McWilliams
• Objective 3.3: Proactively manage human-black bear conflicts:
o Strategy 3.3A: Review and update nuisance black bear policy by developing criteria-driven
triggering actions to deal with nuisance black bears. Assignment: Private Lands- Rex Martensen
o Strategy 3.3B: Evaluate efficacy of current methods to handle nuisance black bears and revise as
needed. Assignment: Private Lands- Rex Martensen and staff
o Strategy 3.3C: Implement bear-proofing practices on public-use areas where feasible to prevent
human-black bear conflicts. Assignment: Wildlife- Kevin Hedgpeth
As bear populations increase to levels that require or can support hunting, our efforts to manage
populations on a scientific basis will include the need for population estimates, models, harvest quotas, and
regulations that target male bears. Males are more likely to cause conflicts with humans and hunting can be
used to reduce these conflicts. Public support for bear hunting will be stronger if we make clear our intentions
of maintaining robust populations but minimizing nuisance situations through targeted harvests. Hunters and
hunting will be used to manage bear populations at levels that minimize human conflicts and maintain healthy
populations. Collecting biological samples from hunter-harvested and road killed animals can aid in measuring
reproductive potential, (counting placental scars in females), survival/age data, and general health. These data
may be important during early hunts but will become less important as more meaningful data are obtained
through scientific studies.
Other states have taken similar approaches to bear management. Recently, Nevada implemented its first
modem era black bear season with an estimated population of 300 animals. This decision followed increased
human-bear conflicts as well as interest in hunting bears from the public. Kentucky initiated its first modem
day bear season in 2009. Oklahoma completed a hair snare study in 2006 to determine the abundance and
composition of bears in the state. Results suggested a statewide population of 500-1000 bears. In 2007 they
proposed a bear hunting season but were stymied by the legislative process. Another attempt is planned for
2008. In 1980, after a 52-year moratorium, and 12 years following their reintroduction effort, bear hunting
was resumed in Arkansas. Conley (1978) estimated that the statewide bear population exceeded 1000 animals
prior to the initial bear season. The objectives of the hunts were to provide recreational opportunity, collect
biological data for management purposes, and aid in the reduction of nuisance bear problems. An annual
harvest goal of 200 bears was set in 1993; this goal was reached in 1996. Today, AGFC estimates there are
3,500 bears in the Interior Highlands and a harvest of 10% of the Ozark population and 15% of the Ouachita
population is sustainable. Currently Arkansas is harvesting around 350 bears annually. Current research
objectives are designed to provide a sustainable harvest strategy for the White River bear population. Studies
using a long-term mark-recapture study with multiple captures of individual bears (e.g. JoUy-Seber estimators)
supplemented with DNA testing from hair follicles collected from barbed- wire surrounding bait stations should
provide necessary data (Estridge 2000). While there is no scientific basis for our benchmark population of 500
bears prior to a hunting season, this number does make biological sense. First, if we took 10% of the population
the harvest of 50 animals is large enough to be meaningful and justify the investments towards creating the
season. Second, and most importantly, a population of 500 animals would necessitate a significant portion of
female bears and the impacts of a properly timed hunting season would not slow population growth.
Besides hunting, seeing a bear or bear sign is a very significant event for outdoor enthusiasts in the state.
Black bears are an important resource for Missouri citizens and their management will require protection from
illegal exploitation or molestation, and harvest regimes that are science based. The establishment and strict
enforcement of regulations pertaining to bear feeding, baiting, and running with dogs are important components
of the bear management plan in Missouri.
Outdoor programs with a conservation message are important to developing public awareness about
bears and in promoting ethical conduct by the public when hunting or running bears with dogs. Bear programs
geared towards hunters will be helpful in educating the public about bear biology and curtailing illegal
activities. Season timing will be designed to protect female bears and cubs, and workshops should help
minimize mistakes in the take of females and cubs.
Although black bear habitat needs are fairly general in terms of forest types used, bears are wide-ranging
animals and need larger blocks of forest land than what most resource managers normally consider for other
wildlife species. Because bears range widely in landscapes, habitat relationships must be evaluated on a broader
context than habitat types per se. Human activities and land uses must be factored into bear habitat
relationships. Deforestation and road building, in particular, are common problems for the conservation and
management of bear populations in North America. The processes of habitat fragmentation that cause localized
bear extinction must be understood to maintain viable bear populations in the face of increasing habitat
destruction and isolation. Even though many habitats in Missouri have recovered, some are at risk due to road
building, development, and land clearing. Publicly-owned forest lands will provide a substantial portion of bear
habitat in Missouri. Currently, the habitat needs of black bears are not directly addressed in many management
plans for public forests in Missouri (see Appendix I). Intensive forest management and road building changes
bear habitat more than any other activity on public lands. Bear foods are often more abundant in logged areas
than in completely uncut forests, due in part to increased sunlight at the shrub-level (see Appendix I).
Because black bear habitat needs must be met at both local and landscape levels, conservation of black
bear habitat will also support many other rare, threatened and/or endangered plants and animals. Thus,
management programs that meet black bear needs should be considered in future planning efforts for public
forests within potential bear range in Missouri.
The Missouri Conservation Wildlife Strategy has been formed to 1) coordinate the conservation of
biological diversity: 2) conserve ecosystem diversity; 3) conserve species and genetic diversity; and 4) increase
knowledge and awareness of biodiversity. It is widely recognized that the long-term conservation of biological
diversity will require planning and management of large, landscape-scale ecosystem emphasis areas.
Conservation efforts for wide-ranging animals such as black bears are an important way to focus conservation
efforts at the landscape scale. A complex of conservation areas in southern Missouri could benefit plants and a
diversity of animals and natural communities, including black bear. The proposed "Conservation Opportunity
Area" concept may fit well with management needs for female black bears in Missouri by providing areas of
limited access, as long as periodic forest disturbances (such as prescribed fire or other specific prescriptions)
stimulate summer food production.
Additionally, many of the processes that lead to loss of biodiversity in Missouri (habitat destruction and
degradation; artificial habitat fragmentation; hybridization; population reductions; species eliminations; and
species introductions) also affect black bears and their habitat quality directly. Thus, the black bear may be a
good species to use as a model when designing strategies to conserve biodiversity. Bear management and
conservation efforts need to incorporate the diverse disciplines of genetics, demography, and community and
Ultimately, an assessment of bear habitat in Missouri will be used to predict population growth and set
population goals, identify habitats in need of conservation, and to implement mitigation measures, if and when
needed. Also, habitat assessments can be used to recommend nuisance bear translocation, release sites (if
necessary and appropriate), and can be re-evaluated through time to monitor trends of bear habitat quality.
Consistent with the existing Wildlife Damage Control policy for nuisance black bears, the goal of the nuisance
bear control program is to minimize property damage without posing a threat to local bear populations, and
without endangering human safety. As Missouri's black bear population increases, and as more people move
into black bear habitat, nuisance problems will undoubtedly increase.
At present, we have relatively few problems with bears in Missouri. However, the few experienced thus
far have occasionally caused confusion regarding appropriate approaches to solve nuisance problems.
Department staff is also in need of updating their knowledge of control techniques. A number of training
workshops is recommended in the near future to bring all appropriate field staff up to date on nuisance control
Unprotected apiaries, improper herding practices, inadequate garbage disposal and food storage tend to
create bear-human conflicts. These conflicts almost always involve competition for food, and can be
Preventive measures are the best way to respond to potential nuisance bear conflicts. Proper nuisance
control management is necessary to help prevent these behavioral changes in bears. Spring and early summer
are peak times for nuisance problems.
Trapping and transferring nuisance bears is costly, time consuming, and does not always solve the
problem in the long run. Numerous state conservation agencies have emphasized the problems involved with
trapping and transferring nuisance bears, and advise others to use this technique as a last resort in urgent or
unusual circumstances (Hostick 1990). Destruction of the bear is also short term, expensive (in terms of public
relations and bear conservation), and controversial. In many cases, both techniques are ineffective solutions.
A better educated and responsible public, through management and education efforts, will assure
compatibility of bears and humans. We encourage the distribution and use of bear life-history and nuisance
booklets to landowners. As people become more aware of bears, these educational booklets can alleviate many
potential problems stemming from either misunderstanding of bear life -history or nuisance control protocol.
Techniques to prevent conflicts:
• Bear-proof garbage containment
• Proper food storage (includes pet and livestock food)
• Information-Education through various media
• Enforcing a NO FEEDING philosophy among public
• Locate garbage dumps away from campsites, or eliminate in bear habitat
• Use electric fencing to protect bee hives
The availability of human-related food sources can change bear behavior. The use of these food
sources may lead to human-bear conflicts, and ultimately, indirect sources of bear mortality via illegal
shooting, translocation, or mandated destruction of the bear.
Goal 4: Educate Missouri's public, the media, and other resource professionals in Missouri and the
Midwest about black bears and Missouri's black bear management program
• Objective 4.1: Improve outreach and education on bear issues (Priority 1)
o Strategy 4.1 A: Promote black bear programs as core MDC messages and to use available media
outlets for reaching target audiences by Outreach and Education employees. Assignment: O & E
o Strategy 4. IB: Update and distribute educational black bear publications to specific target audiences
and other land management agencies. Assignment: O & E- Joan McKee
o Strategy 4.1C: Update the black bear page on the MDC website and establish links to other agency
websites. Assignment: O & E- Bonnie Chasteen, Resource Science - Liz Forbes
• Objective 4.2: Improve intra and inter agency education and communication
o Strategy 4.2A: Provide black bear information in annual furbearer status report. Assignment:
o Strategy 4.2B: Develop File Transfer Protocol (FTP) site for the exchange of information among
agency professionals. Assignment: US Forest Service- Jody Eberly
o Strategy 4.2C: Develop communications protocol and a common database to maintain current
records of black bear sighting, mortality, and relocation information. Assignment: Resource Science
An information program regarding black bears can target non-traditional and non-hunting publics.
Black bears now enjoy wide public appeal (according to our recent attitude surveys), especially in urban areas.
Campers, hikers and other nature enthusiasts need information about how their hobbies can be enhanced simply
by being aware of bears' presence. Rural landowners alive during the 1930s and 1940s when attitudes towards
all predators were much more intolerant and when bounties were common are less enthused about having bears
in Missouri. These education/information programs should stress ways of generating respect, not fear, and
ways of preventing problem encounters with black bears
One of the most important aspects of any effective management program is communication of
information. Scientific communications reach a small, specialized audience and the public many times only
receives anecdotal accounts which are often inaccurate and incomplete. In order for the public to accept black
bears as a part of Missouri's natural heritage and support management programs, the public must be provided
with sound, biologically-correct information which is readily understood.
The presence of black bears in Missouri has caused a degree of controversy. Public opinion varies and
runs the full spectrum from those who think all bears should be shot because they represent a threat to personal
safety and property, to those who consider them a potential trophy animal, and to a growing number who feel
they are endangered throughout their range and should be completely protected. Also, a considerable number
value the black bear as a part of our native fauna because of its status as a quality habitat indicator, or "deep
The secretive but sometimes bothersome nature of black bears contributes to the wide range of emotions
among people living in or visiting bear habitats. Also, great misunderstanding about black bears and frequent
confusion with habits of grizzly bears contributes to the range of opinions regarding bears. Hughie (1979)
stated that human attitudes toward bears are one of the main factors controlling bear numbers.
Although people problems are currently the primary management challenges, attitudes toward bears and
other large carnivores have improved dramatically in the U.S. and in Missouri. As an indication of this change,
the "shoot on sight" philosophy that once prevailed in Missouri seems to have declined. Missouri citizens shot
and killed all five bears that were reported in Missouri during 1950-1959, and eight of twelve by 1962.
However, of the 366 reports of bears from 1980 - 1993, only seven (2%) have been reported killed. Even
though the illegal shooting of bears is still a problem (most likely tied to an unreasonable fear), attitudes appear
to have improved during the past 25 years.
MDC has a number of publications pertaining to black bears and most need only updates to remain
relevant. If bear populations continue to grow and a hunting season is warranted, additional information geared
towards hunters will be created and distributed through regional offices and other print and electronic media.
Currently we believe the most efficient manner to reach the public and MDC staff is through MDC's website.
Black bear outreach efforts will include a user-friendly, attractive, web page dedicated to black bear biology,
status in Missouri, nuisance issues, and other timely information. We have created a recent and relevant power
point program for presentation and distribution to outreach staff from MDC, DNR, USPS, NPS, and other
interested agency personnel. This will ensure that information and messages about black bears in Missouri are
uniform and consistent. Communication among agencies will be facilitated through a file transfer protocol site.
The black bear is native to Missouri's woodlands and its comeback is a welcome addition to the state's
biodiversity. It appears that many citizens in Missouri are in favor of bear population recovery.
This plan outlines several key objectives designed to hasten population growth and enhance the
Department's ability to manage black bears. Successflil management will necessitate efforts from all
Department divisions. Educational programs and products designed to inform the public and Department
personnel regarding bears and their biology are essential to allow recovery. Additionally, a responsive nuisance
bear control program is critical if the public is to continue to accept black bears and for the Department to
maintain credibility. An effective nuisance bear program should be aggressive and is an important tool in
public education. Personal contact between the Department staff and citizens with black bear complaints must
This plan also outlines strategies to determine the extent and quality of bear habitat in the state, the
distribution and abundance of bears, and identifies a need to determine the status of female bears. Although
bear numbers seem to have increased in recent years, the viability of a breeding population is still unknown.
Finally, this plan identifies strategies to help incorporate black bear habitat needs into management plans
for the Department and other agencies. Black bears use a variety of forested habitats, but require large blocks
of forests that are connected to other blocks of habitat with suitable corridors, and therefore, may provide a
useful model in regional and landscape level management planning.
Bennitt, R. and W. O. Nagel. 1937. A survey of the resident game and furbearers in Missouri. Univ. of
Missouri Studies 12:2. Columbia, MO. 215pp.
Clark, J.D. 1985. Notes on the death of an introduced black bear in Arkansas. Ark. Acad, of Science, Vol.
.1988. Arkansas Status Report. Proc. East. Workshop Black Bear Res. And Manage. 9:13
. 1990. Analysis of 1989 bait-station surveys for black bears. In-service memo. Ark. Game and Fish
Comm. Little Rock, Arkansas. 1 1pp.
. 1991. Ecology of two black bear (Ursus americanus) populations in the Interior Highlands of Arkansas.
Ph.D. Diss. Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville. 228pp.
, W.R. Guthrie, and W.B. Owen. 1987. Fall foods of black bears in Arkansas. Southeast Assoc. Fish and
Wildl. Agencies. 41:432-437.
Conley, B. 1978. Black bear status report of Arkansas. Fourth Eastern Black Bear Workshop, Greenville,
Eastridge, R. 2000. Strategic black bear management plan. Arkansas Game and Fish. 31pp.
Elowe, K. D. 1984. Home range, movements, and habitat preferences of black bears (Ursus americanus) in
western Massachusetts. M.S. Thesis, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst. 122pp.
. 1987. Factors affecting black bear reproductive success and cub survival in Massachusetts. Ph.D. Diss.
Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst. 82pp
Godsey, T. 1933. Partial list of Missouri mammals. Annul. Rept. MO Game and Fish Comm. 1932. pp. 182-
Hamilton, D.A. 1992. Distribution of black bears and black bear habitat in Missouri. Performance Report P-R
Study W-13-R-46, Study 36, Jobs No. 1 and 2. 6pp
Hostick, g.A. 1990. Live-trap removal and release as a solution to bear damage complaints. Oregon Dept. fish
and Wildlife. Unpub. Memeo. 6pp.
Hughie, R.D. 1979. Working group report: Central and Northeast Canada and United States. D. Burk, ed. The
black bear in modern North America. Boone and Crockett Club. Amwell Press, Clinton, N.J. Pages 250-271.
Korte, P.A. and L.H. fredrickson. 1977. Loss of Missouri's lowland hardwood ecosystem. Trans. N. Amer.
Wildl. Nat. Res. Conf. 42:31-41.
McKinley, D. 1962. History of the black bear in Missouri. The Bluebird. Audubon Soc. of Missouri. Vol.29:
No. 3 pp 3-17.
Mills, L. S., J. J. Citta, K. P. Lair, M. K. Schwartz and D. A. Tallmon. 2000. Estimating animal abundance
using noninvasive DNA sampling: promise and pitfalls. Ecological Applications 10: 283-294.
Mowat, G., and C. Strobeck. 2000. Estimating population size of grizzly bears using hair capture, DNA
profiling, and mark-recapture analysis. Journal of Wildlife Management 64: 183-193.
Nigh, T.A, and W. A. Schroeder. 2002. Atlas of Missouri Ecoregions. Missouri Department of Conservation.
Jefferson City, MO. 212 pages.
Noss, R.F. 1986. Protecting natural areas in fragmented landscapes. Thirteenth Ann. Nat. Areas Conf., Potosi,
MO. Pages 2-13.
Pelton, M.R. 1982. Black Bear in Chapman, J.A. and Feldhamer, G.A. Wild Mammals of North America. The
Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore, Maryland. Pages 504-514.
. 1989. The impacts of oak mast on black bears in the southern Appalachians. Southern Appalachian Mast
Manag. Workshop. Univ. of Tenn., Knox ville. 2 pages.
Pharris, L. D. 1981. Evaluation of black bear survey data in Arkansas, 1976-80. Southeast, Assoc. Fish and
Wildl. Agencies. 35:66-70.
. 1984. Arkansas Status Report. In D.S. Maehr and J.R. Brady, eds., Proc. Seventh Eastern Workshop on
Black Bear Research and Management. March 26-29. Florida Game and Fish Comm. Pages 1-2.
Rogers, M.J. 1973. Movements and reproductive success of black bear introduced into Arkansas. Proc. Annu.
Conf. Southeast. Assoc. Game and Fish Comm. 27:307-308.
Schoolcraft, H.R. 1821. Journal of a tour into the interior of Missouri and Arkansas in the years 1818 and 1819.
Schwartz, C.W. and E.R. Schwartz. 1959. The wild mammals of Missouri. Univ. of Missouri Press and
Missouri Conservationist Commission. Pp. 266-270.
Schwarz, F. 1920. Mammals of Missouri. Bull. St. Louis Nat. Hist. Museum Assoc, 1:33-44.
Taberlet, P., J. J. Camarra, S. Griffin, E. Uhres, O. Hanotte, L. P. Waits, C. Dubois-Paganon, T. Burke, and J.
Bouvet. 1997. Noninvasive genetic tracking of the endangered Pyrenean brown bear population. Molecular
Woods, J. G., D. Paetkau, D. Lewis, B. L. McLellan, M. Proctor, and C. Strobeck. 1999. Wildlife Society
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT BLACK BEARS
AND HABITAT MANAGEMENT
The black bear is the smallest bear in North America and the only bear native to Missouri. Their historic
range covered all forested regions of North America, but in the eastern United States they now exist primarily
on public lands. Adult males generally weight 200 to 600 pounds, and adult females weigh 100 to 300 pounds.
Although most bears in Missouri are black, the brown color phase also occurs (approximately 20-25%).
The black bear has acute senses of hearing and smell, but has relatively poor eyesight. The black bear is
highly intelligent, and its extreme wariness is an example of that intelligence. Although the black bear is not
considered one of the more dangerous animals, it can sometimes have a fragile temper and be unpredictable in
its behavior. However, although occasional physical injuries do occur during contacts between people and
black bears, virtually all involve people feeding bears or attempting to touch or capture them. In most cases
these incidents occur in a campground setting and involve a "panhandler" bear. The black bear possesses great
strength and agility, and is an excellent climber, runner, and swimmer.
Even though the black bear is a forest-dwelling animal, it is quite adaptable and inhabits a variety of
forest habitats. Black bear populations have declined or have been eliminated in areas because of land use
changes that have converted forest cover to agriculture or urban developments. Increased human access
because of roads has also impacted black bears where forests remain intact. Bear populations become patchy as
developments fragment the forest and travel corridors are eliminated. Because of its sensitivity to habitat
changes, the black bear is often used by resource agencies as a management indicator species.
Generally, both male and female black bears become sexually mature at about 3.5 years of age.
Sexually mature females will usually produce young every other year until they are 18 to 20 years old or older.
Except for females with cubs and during the breeding season, black bears are solitary animals.
The breeding season for black bears occurs during June and July. Female bears will chase their yearling
cubs away just prior to coming into estrous. Many yearling males began dispersing soon after that and may
wander long distances and for many months, while yearling females usually maintain a home range within or
adjacent to their mother's. Some males may not disperse until they are 2.5 years old.
The gestation period is approximately seven months. Development of the embryo is delayed for
approximately five months and the embryo does not begin developing until six to eight weeks before birth.
This delayed implantation may be an adaptation to prevent the developing young from using the female's
metabolic reserves until the fall foods become abundant. Cubs are bom while the females are in winter dens.
usually late January or early February. Normally, two cubs are born, but three or four are not uncommon.
Cubs are born blind and helpless and weigh about 8 ounces. The cubs stay with the female throughout the next
year and normally den with her as yearlings. There is a critical relationship between black bear's breeding
biology and food availability. The nutritional condition of the female as she enters the winter den can affect
production of cubs - if she's in poor condition, the fertilized egg may not implant in the uterus, or the cubs may
not survive because of poor milk production.
HABITAT AND FOOD
Black bears can be found in a wide range of forested environments. Bear populations can be found in
habitats as diverse as the subtropical areas of Florida to boreal and sub-arctic areas of Canada and Alaska. As
the geographic distribution of bears has diminished, the remaining suitable habitats have become increasingly
important. Substantial range expansions by bears are generally limited; however, because of their generalist
nature and intelligence they have become able to persist despite human encroachment.
Preferred black bear habitat is characterized by large forested tracts of mast- bearing trees or shrubs.
Areas of dense understory also seem to be an important component. Dense refuge cover or inaccessible areas
are important to bears for denning and to escape persecution from humans and/or free running dogs. Areas of
old growth forest that provide den trees are a valuable, but not essential, habitat.
Black bear habitat in Missouri is likely similar to that used by bears in the Southern Appalachians and
parts of Arkansas. Bears in these areas are found in oak-hickory and mixed mesophytic forests. Seasonal use
of specific cover types are often tied to the chronology of ripening hard and soft mast. Being generalists, bears
tend to utilize those food sources that are most abundant. Habitats used by bears can be grouped as spring-
summer ranges and late summer-fall ranges. Overall, seasonal differences in home range size, activity centers,
and movement patterns are nearly always related to the phenology, production and geographic distribution of
food resources. Generally, female bears have smaller spring-summer ranges and this is likely due to the low
mobility of their offspring. Adult males travel extensively during the spring and also the summer breeding
season, and often throughout the fall. Males typically have larger home ranges than females (approximately 10
square miles for females), sometimes twice or triple their size (up to 60 square miles for males).
During spring and early summer bears seem to prefer forest openings, pine cover-types with blueberries
in the understory, and recently clear-cut areas. These early successional cover-types provide bears with grasses,
forbs and fruits when other food sources are absent. Also, some biologists speculate that grasses and forbs are
important in "reactivating" the bear's digestive system after its winter dormancy. Seeps, balds, and glades
likely provide similar foods. Specific foods consumed by bears during spring include nettles, touch-me-not, and
soft mast from Heath (Ericacae) and Rose (Rosaceae) families. Carrion and newborn white-tailed deer
(Odocoileus virginianus) are also eaten by bears, when available. However, overall, bears tend to lose weight
As summer approaches bears take advantage of ripening fruits and berries and often spend considerable
time in recent clear cuts and habitats with a high shrub component. Bears also seem to spend considerable time
in forested areas with low site indices, probably because these areas often contain mats of huckleberries, rubus
sp., and other soft mast. Bears typically recover weight lost over winter by mid-summer, as there is a diversity
of foods available. Food habit studies show that bears utilize insects, tree-borne soft mast, and shrub-borne soft
mast prior to fall when diets shift towards hard mast.
Mast, especially acorns, is a critical component for bears during fall (see Appendix II). Bears seek out
foods with high fat and protein content, and this is especially evident during fall when bears are attempting to
replenish fat stores prior to hibernation. Fall mast has been termed "the single most important factor limiting
reproduction, growth and survival of black bears" (Elowe 1987, Pelton 1989). During summer-fall bears
seek out areas of heavy mast production. Extensive movements and home range overlap often occurs at
available food sources. Some females and their cubs have been known to move 20 miles or more to locate a
concentrated nut crop. Mature stands of mixed oak and oak-hickory cover types with good site indices are most
often used by bears during fall. These older stands also provide bears with den trees.
During late fall and winter bears enter pre-selected dens and undergo a winter dormancy, or hibernation.
Bears probably den to circumvent food shortages during winter. Adult females with cubs tend to den first,
followed by females without cubs, and males. During hibernation bears rarely eat, defecate, or urinate. Their
body temperature and heart rate are reduced and their metabolism functions at about 40% while in hibernation.
Both sexes lose foot pads during hibernation.
Denning sites are important components to bear habitat. They provide bears with protection from
adverse weather, harassment from humans, and perhaps even intraspecific aggression. Females and their cubs
benefit from secure den sites in areas with high bear densities or predators, such as free running dogs, wolves,
or coyotes. Typical den sites include rock caves and crevices, tree blow-downs, slash piles, ground nests, and
tree cavities. Bears don't often reuse den sites and may vary den types from year to year. Approximately 5-
10% of winter dens are reused, sometimes by different bears. While den sites probably are not a limiting factor
for bears, protecting quality sites is an important management objective. Trees capable of serving as den sites
should be protected from timber harvest activities, and from timber stand improvement.
Bears tend to be secretive and shy, yet their daily movements and activities sometimes bring them into
conflict with humans. Most people will never encounter a black bear; however, for those that do, the single
encounter will likely shape their image and perceptions of bears as a whole. Unfortunately, some of these
encounters will involve a nuisance bear.
For those people having problems with bears, it is especially important that 1) they receive immediate
attention and are educated about bears, and 2) the bear is deterred, if possible (i.e., scare cannons, electric
fence). Ideally, a human -bear conflict can be resolved as a positive experience for the landowner and a negative
experience for the bear. Proper handling of human/bear conflicts is essential to curb negative public attitudes,
maintain public support and tolerance for bears, and maintain agency credibility among rural landowners. A
reasonable and responsible bear damage policy is also an important factor of the bears' survival, especially
given the uncertain status of Missouri's bear population. If the public has an avenue for proper advice,
technical information, and equipment loan, a "first time offender" nuisance bear can be reformed rather than
Bear/human conflicts range from mere observations of bears to actual damage caused by bears seeking
food. Bears causing damage to property are almost always after food. Young bears 1.5 to 3.5 years old are
more often involved in nuisance complaints than cubs or adults, and males more often than females. Young
bears (especially dispersing males) no longer have their experienced mother to show them locations of food
sources and they sometimes become bold and hungry enough to approach campgrounds, garbage dumps, or
human residences. While female bears don't usually disperse outside of their mother's home range, males often
travel extensively, seeking to establish their own home range. It is during this dispersal that male bears will raid
garbage dumps, gardens, bee hives, and cause trouble. Fortunately, most bear complaints will resolve
themselves as those dispersing panhandlers often never return. Repeat visits by damage-causing bears would
merit more aggressive actions ranging from electric fencing to trapping and relocating, depending upon
BLACK BEAR HABITAT MANAGEMENT
Black bears are generalists using a wide variety of mostly-forested habitat types and forest age
classes. Specific habitat management for bears consists simply of providing them a stable food source with
abundant mast producing tree and shrub species and adequate escape cover. Any habitat modifications that
decrease mast or cover, or increase human access, will likely adversely affect bear populations. Practices that
eliminate potential dispersal corridors between large tracts of timber or fall feeding grounds will likely have
dramatic long-tern affects on bear populations. Since bears are forest dwellers their populations are greatly
influenced by forest management practices.
Bears can survive under a diversity of habitat types and conditions, yet their mortality rates and
likelihood of becoming a nuisance animal are often related to human access. Bears that have high road
densities within their home range are susceptible to human-caused mortality from hunting (where legal),
collision with vehicles, dogs, and poaching. Bear movements do not seem to be inhibited by logging roads with
low traffic volume. However, interstate highways (and some secondary roads) have been shown to act as
barriers to movements. Human access into bear range via logging roads is likely a more important factor to
bear survival. Poaching and harassment by dogs can be a very important mortality factor, particularly in remote
areas with low bear densities.
Forest management can enhance bear habitat by providing food and cover. Timber harvest allows
increased sunlight to the forest floor, thereby stimulating growth and fruit production of soft mast species such
as blackberries, cherries, grapes, and pokeweed. Decomposing logging slash residue provides bears with a food
source of insects and invertebrates. Slash piles are used as den sites and the regeneration provides excellent
escape cover. Detrimental effects of forest management include the conversion of oak stands to other cover
types, excessive logging that greatly reduces mast production, and increased human access due to road
construction. Also, if large timbered tracts are even-aged, they provide only seasonal foods and are of lower
Forest management for black bears in Missouri should maintain a diversity of oak species and age
classes. Oak species should be favored in any silvicultural treatments. Persimmon, sassafras, and dogwood are
other species that should be protected and encouraged. Even-aged management of oak forests creates escape
cover and soft mast. Clear cut blocks should be scattered, small (fewer than 15 acres), and irregularly shaped to
provide maximum edge and an overall patchy distribution of age classes. Timber harvest rotations of 100-120
years provide bears with adequate mast. Potential den trees and areas of old growth should be protected from
any logging; 5-10% of the forest should be maintained as old growth >200 years old. Permanent forest
openings also provide important food resources to bears and should be maintained or created at about 15% of
the forest. Openings can be maintained through selective herbicide and burning. Edge feathering the borders
increases soft mast production and benefits bears and other species. Also, frequent prescribed fire in some
habitats, such as savannas and pine, can promote berry production. Sometimes these sites need 3 or more burns
before blueberry production is enhanced.
Dispersal and travel corridors merit special attention. In Missouri these habitats are essential if a viable
bear population is to become reestablished. Bears are known to use forested strips as narrow as 10 meters
through agricultural areas in Louisiana. Travel corridors are important for dispersal of sub-adults, genetic
interchange among populations, and throughways to seasonal feeding areas. Travel corridors should be
identified and protected from major disturbances. These general guidelines may help when integrating bear
needs into management plans:
1. Conserve habitat in large, contiguous areas (150 sq. mi for 30 female territories).
2. Consider shape, type and size of appropriate habitat, and accessibility and juxtaposition to adjoining
3. Vehicle access may seriously reduce habitat suitability for bears. Minimize public use of interior roads
4. Corridors of natural habitat between habitat blocks will increase their utility and the wider the corridor,
the better. Wider corridors will be needed for long stretches between major habitat blocks, or if
adjoining habitat is subject to intensive human use.
If major roads cross critical corridors, naturally vegetated underpasses should be incorporated to provide
wildlife crossing. Use of tunnels under major ridges, instead of blasting gaps completely through, the ridge is
also preferred. In many areas, wide-ranging animals such as black bears are now confined to the few remaining
pockets of unfragmented landscape Corridors are simply an attempt to maintain or restore some of the natural
landscape connectivity (Noss 1986).
Contents of 59 black bear stomachs collected in
Arkansas, fall 1981 to 1986a
AGGREGATE VOLUME PERCENTAGE
Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.
Greenbriar (Smilax spp.)
Dogwood (Comus florida)
TOTAL OJ L7
a Trace items are included in totals but are not individually listed.
Taken from Clark et al. 1987.